Bars and restaurants in Brent welcome their reopening even if business still quiet for some
- Credit: Archant
Brent sprung back into life at the weekend as restaurants and bars reopened after 14 weeks locked down.
Shutters went up and kitchens reopened for many in the hospitality industry on July 4 and while it was plain sailing for some, others hope that business will pick up.
Junction Cafe in Cricklewood Lane is a “working cafe for working people” which closed its doors on March 20 when the government imposed lockdown.
“We’re happy to be open. We were sitting down too much,” said manager James Alex.
“We’ve not been busy, just a few customers, they don’t come to sit down, just take-away food, nobody is sitting, families don’t sit and we have tables outside.
“People are not working. There are not too many jobs around here at the moment. We hope people will come back.”
Ace Cafe, on the North Circular, opened on Saturday and founder Mark Wilsmore said: “It’s great we’ve been able to open and great to see our patrons again.
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“The closure was amazing; it was a busy evening here if ever there was a night picked to make an announcement. I got them to turn the juke box off and made the announcement on a loud hailer and everyone cheered afterwards.
“We’re open seven days a week but from 8am to 5pm at the moment. Basically we’ll see how it goes and what rules unfold from the government.
“But let’s not lose sight that Covid has not gone away and Brent’s been one of the worst hit by it. We all have to keep social distancing in mind and like Boris says, ‘stay alert’.”
Café culture returned to Wembley Park as people were able to dine out at an increased number of outdoor tables and benches .
Locals and visitors were treated to live music from musicians kicking off a summer busking programme, coordinated with Busk in London.
Nine hand sanitiser stations were installed across the neighbourhood to help maintain hygiene standard and signs let people know how best to navigate the wider area.
Boxpark Wembley, Bread Ahead and Pasta Remoli were among three businesses to expand their outdoor seating to allow customers to stay within two metre social distancing rules.
Roger Wade, CEO and founder of Boxpark, said: “The past three months have been incredibly trying for us all – not only for the team at Boxpark but all of our dedicated traders too.
“We are excited to welcome people back into our venues, but at the same time it’s crucial to ensure we are providing a safe and clean environment for our visitors - our team have been working extremely hard to achieve this in time for our reopening.”
Simone Remoli, head of Pasta Remoli, said the company had invested in click-and-collect technology to reduce queuing and improve speed of service.
He said: “It has been testing times for the whole sector and will continue to be. However, our reopening is the first small step to offering people some level of normality. We are thrilled to be welcoming Brent locals back to our Wembley Park location.”
One business looking forward to reopening on Thursday (July 9) was Coco B’s in the High Street, Willesden Green.
The Caribbean eatery opened a year ago with special guests including author Yvonne Bailey Smith and her children author Zadie Smith and actor Ben Bailey Smith, aka Doc Brown.
Co-founder Nakeba Buchanan said she and partner Elliot Phillip used lockdown to redecorate and make changes, including new lighting outside.
“We’re getting ready to re-open,“ she said. “We’ve decorated the garden and made it look really tropical outside.
“Business takes over your life and it was nice to take a step back and see what the business needs.
“We didn’t offer takeaways during Covid as we didn’t want to put any staff at risk.
“I feel bright about the future. I always welcome change and if it means the shop works a bit slower and means I can keep the staff I’m happy with that.
“We have had such amazing support from the community.“
Cllr Anne Clarke, who represents Child’s Hill, said: “A huge welcome back to NW2 businesses. Junction Cafe has sprung back into life as has the Cricklewood Trades Hall. It’s been wonderful to see friends and neighbours again but we must remember that the pandemic isn’t over, and we all have a part to play to keep each other safe from the virus.”